More than 600 gathered at the Bob Bullock Museum on April 23rd to support and help raise funds for the Breast Cancer Resource Centers (BCRC) of Texas. The fifth annual GRAPHIC event for this Austin-based nonprofit organization included silent and live auctions, a runway art bra fashion show, mingling with models clad in wildly unique bra creations and tasty delights from local dining establishments.
GRAPHIC 5 was primarily planned and orchestrated by The Pink Ribbon Cowgirls (PRC), a support-focused group comprised of younger breast cancer survivors which is organized under the BCRC. Not only did they take care of most of the event and pre-event details, but members of this group also were the models of the fabulous art bras.
Shauna Martin, prior board president and one of the founders of the PRC, jump-started the festivities with a warm welcome and a few words about going through breast cancer treatment at age 33 along with her younger sister who was diagnosed a month after herself. Seeing the tremendous need for more support for young women with breast cancer started Shauna on a path of volunteering with the BCRC.
Though the organization serves individuals of all ages, this particular event focused more on younger women with breast cancer, a group that experiences different challenges because of their age, such as issues related to fertility, sexuality and being parents. The effects of this disease leaves many women struggling to regain positive feelings about their changed bodies. It is far more than the visual effects of treatment and may include a wide range of emotions such as feeling betrayed by one’s own body. Regardless of whether the woman chooses to reconstruct, remove or preserve her breasts, the process of accepting and loving her body again may be a very difficult process. The scars run much deeper than what the eyes can see.
In speaking with many of the models, I heard a variety of stories of what inspired them to do this. Overall, the process of modeling an art bra had a positive effect on their self-image, their confidence, and for some, regaining that inner spirit and ability to feel sexy again. The process begins with the reaction when initially considering modeling a bra. For some, this includes paralyzing fear. Then the courage rises to do something that is way outside of one’s comfort zone, not unlike jumping out of an airplane. The next step may include coming face to face with feelings about one’s femininity, or lack thereof. For others, it just sounded like fun and was a way to give back. Susan Gross, who was modeling for her second year, shared that one of the reasons she first decided to do this was “I needed to prove to myself that I was back in the game of life and ready to tackle the world again.“
As the models sashayed their way down the runway, event emcees Crestina Chavez of YNN (previously News 8 Austin) and Police Officer and co-founder of Scare for a Cure, Jarrett Crippen, shared personal stories about each of the survivors who courageously modeled the bras. Last year, a model by the name of Sarah collapsed at the event and was rushed to the hospital, jarring those present with the harsh reality of the disease. Jarrett and Crestina provided an update on her status – not only surviving, but thriving – and just added a beautiful baby girl to their family. As the crowd erupted with cheers at hearing the good news, it was obvious how truly relieved and excited they were. This event is not about the organization. It is about the women who battle this horrible disease and it pairs a face with a story. Those who are fortunate to attend get to know a little bit about these amazing women and how valuable the support they receive through BCRC is for them.
Funds raised from the event enable the organization to provide support to anyone affected by breast cancer. This includes providing canvas totes with vital information for those newly diagnosed, maintaining resource centers in several Austin locations as well as in Hays and Williamson Counties, holding support groups throughout the area, offering classes on topics of interest, and most important, providing patient navigation support services.
Certified Patient Navigators are there to assist the individual who has been diagnosed with breast cancer as well as his or her loved ones and/or caregivers. Basically, they do whatever they possibly can to help. In talking with Ray Ann Evans, Director of Client Services and a patient navigator, this includes being with and holding the hand of a frightened woman during her biopsy, helping someone with limited financial resources get treatment, and providing education on the particular type of cancer and what to expect. It also includes things like finding someone to help with pets, children, meals or transportation during treatment as well as assistance with obtaining wigs, bandages, counseling and mastectomy supplies. Most materials and services are also available in Spanish.
There is no charge for any of the services provided by the BCRC. Funding comes from donations, grants, corporate sponsors and through events such as GRAPHIC 5. Donations can also be made online. For more information, visit the website or call 512.544.0900.
Auctioneer Victoria Gutierrez delighted the crowd and kept a lively pace as bidders competed for a few select Art Bras and several unique packages that included a private catered dining experience for 20 with Ray Benson, a “Mama’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to be Willie” package with VIP treatment at Willie’s Birthday Concert, and an “Eat, Pray, Love” package for 8 that included a stay in a private villa in Bali!
Comments about your experience with GRAPHIC and/or this organization are encouraged.